Seriously giving a Shift

Written on 03/30/2024
Patrick Munsey

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Living without the basic necessities in life – food, clothing, and shelter – is difficult at best. The local community rallies around at least two of these needs very well. There are organizations out there actively providing food and clothing to help those who lack.

But shelter, as has been demonstrated very clearly this year, is a need that goes unmet all too often. Seth Gerber, owner of Shift Heating and Cooling, runs into this deficit all too often in his line of work, and recently he decided that it was time to do something about the problem.

Gerber recently responded to a 95-year-old client who had no heat in her home, but that wasn’t the worst thing her found when they arrived at the woman’s house. Her basement was filled with sewage.

“The house was horrid; it was in rough condition,” said Gerber. “She didn't have any money, and I recognized that I had to look her in the eye and say, ‘I can't help you.’ We're talking $7,000 for repairs that she couldn't afford.”

Unable to forgive the cost of repairs, but reluctant to just walk away, Gerber turned to social media, explaining the predicament in a video.

“I said, ‘Look, this is the situation. I feel like it's our obligation and our duty to help,’” said Gerber. “This is the greatest country on Earth. How in the world have we as a society allowed this to happen? I felt the responsibility to act and help the best I could, but I'm not wealthy enough to eat seven grand.”

Gerber was floored by the response. An anonymous donor provided a new furnace. Other donors lined up to donate money. Almost immediately, a solution materialized for the woman.

“We picked up the furnace and went to her house,”: said Gerber. “Her basement was still full of sewage, so we brought a pressure washer and cleaning supplies. We brought a snaking machine to snake out the line. We pulled her toilet and replaced her stool flange. I mean, we were there all day.”

AFTER: Clean floors, repaired plumbing, and a new furnace, thanks to the community.

Gerber’s crew completed the plumbing repairs and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the basement. Then, the new furnace was installed. All of the work was performed at no cost. He was a bit surprised at the lady’s initial reaction.

“While we were doing this, she's delirious,” said Gerber. “She thought someone snuck into her house and sabotaged her. Even while we were trying to help her, she was like, ‘Hey, stop! Something sounds fishy here.’

“She was thinking we were out to screw her. I begged her to let us help, and she agreed to let us go forward. We got it all cleaned out and got her heat on. That was awesome!”

But the feeling of accomplishment and warmth from this generous act faded quickly. Gerber realized that the woman isn’t the only person in the community suffering like she did. He had seen similar circumstances before and was unable to help despite his best efforts.

Seth Gerber

“I tried to do this like eight months ago, and no one cared,” said Gerber. “So, I did not expect anyone in the community to give a damn. I didn't think anyone would care. I was completely wrong. An overwhelming amount of people showed up to support and help.

“I was so moved by the community's outreach to do something about it. I recognize that this isn't the only one. I've seen this before where it's often children or elderly people. But we don't see it. They're your neighbors. They're living in squalor, without heat, without plumbing. They suffer in silence, and no one knows about it.”

Gerber has started a GoFundMe, hoping to duplicate the act of kindness. He’s hoping the fund will generate enough donations that Shift can perform more of these charitable repairs. The initial response was promising. In just two days, more than $1,000 was raised.

Now, Gerber is setting his sights on building the charitable arm of his company. He has been searching for grants and is considering establishing a nonprofit organization to handle it all with transparency and accountability.

“There are organizations out there that help with food and clothing, but shelter is a necessity we often ignore,” said Gerber. “People don't realize when your furnace goes out in winter, things can get much worse. If your pipes freeze or your plumbing breaks, that can ruin the whole house. I know in my heart that starting this is the right thing to do. It's up to the community how far it goes. We want to give back where we can.”

The qualities Shift Heating and Cooling hope to embody, as decided by its employees.

Gerber is so committed to providing this charitable service that he’s planning to start a garage sale page on social media to sell off his own belongings to help fund it. The sports cards and games and things of his youth could be auctioned off to help others meet their basic needs. And he would accept items from others to auction off as well.

“I recognize a lot of people can't afford to donate anything, so give us your junk,” said Gerber. “We'll put 100 percent of it towards helping somebody. I see an incredible opportunity to be something like We Care, but focused on people's homes, their shelter.

“This is a desperate attempt to help. It may fizzle. People might not care at all, which is kind of what I expected from the get-go. But it's been a very moving experience, all things considered. We were there to help. It was an opportunity for us to rise to the occasion, to be who we are, and demonstrate what we stand for. And I think we I think we did that.”

For those interested in helping Gerber in his effort to ensure no one suffers from a lack of adequate shelter, he encourages them to either email him at or call 765-419-7666.